Home » Browse » Food in Film » Food & Film: Alice’s Restaurant November 18, 2020 - Written by: Nancy Pollard
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Days Of Yore
This will be a different Thanksgiving dinner for many of us. We usually host a mid afternoon turkey based celebration with our friends and occasional extra seat for someone who is homeless for this unique American holiday. This year, we are getting ours from Open Hand (and taking advantage of their discount to KD readers) while joining our far-flung daughters via Skype, Whatsapp or Zoom (which will be free for Thanksgiving this year)– whichever they feel is more technically friendly to them. Indeed, this scenario is very different from our usual wacky Turkey celebration, which normally has a second part on Sunday – Zee Toorki Sahnveesh Pahty, I remember a time in my modestly misspent youth when I was wearing long skirts made from resewn Levis and my husband, after nine blissful years at UVA, eschewed a law career and went into construction as a timekeeper. He had always loved the industry ever since he had worked in construction crews as a teenager. We were guided by The Whole Earth Catalog and were relentless in trying to buy organic products – no easy feat back then. But we usually spent a Thanksgiving holiday afternoon watching the 1969 film Alice’s Restaurant often with our daughters when they were toddlers. We realized later that it was a Thanksgiving tradition with many other twenty and thirty somethings too.
A Song Becomes A Film
The film is very loosely based on an 18 minute blues song recorded by Arlo Guthrie (son of Woody Guthrie, if you need a refresher course in American folk song troubadours). This sort of talking-song- saga celebrates his arrest for littering after a Thanksgiving meal with Alice and Ray Brock. The litterbug arrest saved him from getting drafted during the Viet Nam War. The film was conceived and directed by Arthur Penn, who also directed Bonnie And Clyde and Little Big Man. It is definitely a kinder, gentler film about the hippie counter-culture of my youth. You will see an early Joannie Mitchell, and Lee Hays and Peter Seeger of the The Weavers fame. Some of the real life characters (and I include the blind judge at Arlo’s trial) play themselves in the film.
But Wait There’s More
Although she played an extra in the film, there really is an Alice Brock and her partner Ray. And yes, they did live in a church and she did have a counter-culture styled restaurant. She was very resentful of the fame bequeathed by Penn’s film. She and Ray divorced and she sold their church home. He died, she moved to Provincetown and painted rocks and wrote a second book titled How To Massage Your Cat, which is very funny but not helpful in feline reflexology. The church was purchased by Arlo in 1991 and turned into a non-denominational worship center. It hosts a “Thanksgiving Dinner that can’t be beat” for the local community and there is an annual “Garbage Trail Walk” made famous by the song. The proceeds go to raise money for Huntington’s Disease research. Woody Guthrie died a very slow and painful death from this disease which is genetically passed. But Alice actually wrote this cookbook with funny drawings ,and typical counter-culture prose We used to sell it at the shop (in the very early days) replete with a recorded introduction by Arlo. And yes, truthfully, I cooked out of it. And probably dressed like it too.
A Sweet Ending
I remember making this cake from her cookbook because at the time, I thought it was cool to make a cake where each ingredient was really a pound – flour, sugar, butter, eggs, even the confectioner’s sugar for the frosting was a pound. I had to change the timing for baking. it is much closer to 60 minutes rather than 90 minutes. Also, weigh your ingredients: a pound of extra large eggs is eight and a pound of large eggs is ten. I use a Thermapen to check the interior temperature of a cake. When it measures between 190F and 195F, it is done. This large pound cake plays well with fruit, whipped cream or with Stella Park’s superlative vanilla ice cream.
Thelma's (My Ex Mother-In-Law) Pound Cake
A big cake for a crowd. Still durn good, even after all these years
- 1 pound (454gr) salted butter
- 1 pound (454gr) white granulated sugar
- 1 pound eggs (454gr) -10 if large eggs, 8 if extra large
- 1 pound (454gr) white flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Juice of a large lemon plus the zest
- 1tablespoon salted butter
- 1pound (454gr) powdered or confectioner's sugar
- Juice of two lemons and zest of one
- A few teaspoons of cream or evaporated milk if needed.
- Preheat your oven to 300F (150C) and grease an a10 inch ((26cm) angel food cake pan.
- In a stand mixer, cream the butter thoroughly and then grandually add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is very light and fluffy, and there is no granular texture from the sugar.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, and then follow with folding in the flour.
- Add the salt, lemon juice and zest and fold thoroughly.
- Pour batter into greased pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes.
- Mix the frosting ingredients until smooth, adding the cream or evaporated milk as needed.
- When the cake has cooled, slowly pour over the frosting, a small ladle at a time around the top of the cake.
- Keep in covered cake dish at room temperature or store covered in the refrigerator.
- I test the cake now with a Thermapen and when the probe reads around 195, it's done.
- I use a classic 10-inch(25cm) angel food pan from Fat Daddios
- My favorite baking sugars are from India Tree..
By Alice Ray Brock
Adapted from Alice's Restaurant Cookbook
Adapted from Alice's Restaurant Cookbook
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/
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After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.